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Healing herbs

Daily News logo Daily News 23/11/2020 Daily News (via HT Media Ltd.)
a bowl of fruit © Provided by Daily News (via HT Media Ltd.) a group of fruit and vegetables on display © Provided by Daily News (via HT Media Ltd.)

Ayurvedic knowledge originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. In the Third Century BC Ashoka the Emperor converted to Buddhism. He sent many Buddhist missionaries to neighboring countries and this is probably how Ayurveda reached Sri Lanka. We know that Ayurvedic medicine was already extensively developed by the time of the Buddha (5th to 4th century BCE). Green Thumbs speaks to Senior Lecturer, Former Director, Institute of Indigenous Medicine, University of Colombo, Dr. Swarna Hapuarachchi on Ayurveda plant medicines and the health benefits provided by Ayurvedic plants.

“There are number of medicinal plants that have the power to fight against diseases. There are some groups of medicines available in the Ayurveda system. Following groups are very commonly used - Thriphala, Trikatu, Dashamula, Pancakola and Trijata.Triphala is a combination of Nelli, Aralu and Bulu. Triphala means three fruits. (Tri- Three & Phala - Fruits) It is the most famous combination that Sri Lankans are familiar with. Trikatu is another trinity. It combines the goodness of three herbs or spices, mainly, long pepper, black pepper, and ginger to create a remedy for most Vata and Kapha disorders like digestive anomalies, respiratory issues, inflammatory conditions, liver disturbances, various infections, sexual and reproductive problems, hypercholesteremia, sluggish metabolism, and obesity. Dashamula is an ayurvedic formulation made up of ten herbs. Agnimantha, Bilwa, Bruhati, Gokshura, Kantakari, Kashmari, Patala, Prushniparni, Shaliparni and Shyonaka. It particularly helps when it comes to disorders of the nervous system and lungs.

It is also frequently used to alleviate constipation, lower back conditions and inflammation in the pelvic and sacral areas. By pañcakola - the five spices are long pepper (pippal), long-pepper roots (pippalmla), elephant pepper (cavya), plumbago (citraka), and dry ginger (ngara),” explained Hapuarachchi.

She stated that Triphala is one of the oldest and most powerful Ayurvedic medicine which is used by all Ayurveda or traditional physicians in their therapeutic practice. It is an Ayurveda herbal formulation that has a wide range of curative powers and is applicable to a broad range of ailments and helps maintain a state of good health in the mind and body.

Three types of energy

Ayurveda identifies three basic types of energy that are present in everyone and everything. Vata, pitta and kapha. Energy is required to create movement so that fluids and nutrients get to the cells, enabling the body to function. Energy is also required to metabolize the nutrients in the cells, and is called for to lubricate and maintain the structure of the cell. Vata is the energy of movement. Pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism and Kapha, the energy of lubrication and structure. All people have the qualities of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, but one is usually primary, one secondary and the third is usually least prominent. All Ayurvedic practitioners generally agree that the cause of disease in Ayurveda is viewed as a lack of proper cellular function due to an excess or deficiency of Vata, Pitta or Kapha.

“Three Doshas are the three fundamental energies which govern the function of our bodies on the physical and emotional level. Each individual has a unique balance of all three of these energies.

They are biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. They govern all physical and mental processes and provide every living being with an individual blueprint for health and fulfillment,” pointed out Hapuarachchi.

Five great elements

To learn how to balance the body, mind and consciousness requires an understanding of how Vata, Pitta and Kapha work together. According to Ayurvedic philosophy the entire universe is made up of the five great elements—Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These five elements (Maha Bhutas) are Earth (Prithivi), Water (Jala), Fire (Agni), Air (Vayu) and Space (Akasa). Vata, Pitta and Kapha are combinations and permutations of these five elements

“If you take the Aralu plant, it has been widely used for many centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. It has a variety of positive health effects on the heart and brain. It decreases stomach acidity and guards against ulcers. The Bulu is another excellent plant to grow. Bulu is a powerful ancient detoxifier with detoxifying qualities on the blood, muscles and fatty tissue of the body. Bulu is very useful with conditions involving excess mucous in the system and is also good for quality bone formation. Nelli is another plant which is vital for the home garden. It is low in calories and it is made up of over 80 percent water. Nelli or the Indian Gooseberry is considered to be a super food,” explained Hapuarachchi.

Triphala contains five of the six tastes recognized in Ayurveda – Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent. It is only missing the salty taste. Ayurveda identifies the six tastes as – Madhura (Sweet), Amla (Sour), Lavana (Salty), Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter), and Kashaya (Astringent).

These are the main tastes in plants. These six tastes are actually the five Bhutas in different concentrations. These tastes are necessary for health and well-being, and also balances the three Doshas.

Holistic approach

Hapuarachchi stated that the beauty of Ayurveda is that it approaches health in a holistic manner. Ayurveda is not only a way to treat illnesses but also a preventive and protective science. Following a lifestyle with habits and a diet as prescribed by Ayurveda will support better health. Application of Ayurveda medicine in clinical practice is different than modern medicine. It’s a personal medicine. Treatment depends on the disease state and patient’s personal temperament.

“In our studies we have found that Triphala is able to suppress the multiplication of cancer cells. In the world we live in obesity has become a serious health issue. We have also found that in studies conducted, subjects that consumed Triphala, experienced a significantly greater decrease in weight, compared to subjects who were not taking Triphala. When it comes to arthritis, we have found in studies conducted, that Triphala has a positive effect on rheumatoid arthritis. Bleeding gums is another issue most people have. Triphala is said to have success in curing these ailments. Its high content of Vitamin C helps in Anemia. Plaque is another health problem with Cholesterol combining with fat, calcium and other substances in the blood to form plaque. It then hardens in the arteries.

This can cause heart attack or stroke. Triphala has been found to reduce cholesterol and arterial plaque. In addition to this, Triphala improves digestion as well as regulates bowel movements. Triphala is an amazing healing agent with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that speeds up the healing of wounds. This anti-inflammatory characteristic makes it cure and prevent anything from joint pain to bronchitis,” explained Hapuarachchi.

“Ayurveda means the science of life. The scientific methodology of Ayurveda consists of the knowledge passed on by the sages, direct observation, inference and deductive logic as well as experimentation. Treatment of disorders in Ayurveda is holistic in nature and consists of medicine, diet and lifestyle changes,” said Hapuarachchi.

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HEALTH BENEFITS OF TRIPHALA

The fruits are completely dried, powdered and then mixed in the correct amounts to make the Triphala churna.

* Helpful in weight loss

* Acts as a detoxifier

* Cures digestive issues

* Helps in fighting infections and enhances immunity

* Beneficial in maintaining oral hygiene

* Beneficial for eye health

* Helpful in treating gastric ulcers

* Helpful in reducing joint and bone pains

* Helpful in healing wounds

* Helpful in stimulating hair growth

* Helpful in reducing dark circles

* Helpful in curing bad breath

* Helpful in motion sickness and curing dizziness

* Helpful in managing diabetes

* Helpful in boosting heart health

* Helps in skin rejuvenation

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